The Hippo


May 30, 2020








NH Highland Games

When: Friday, Sept. 15, through Sunday, Sept.17. Access to the fairgrounds opens at 8 a.m. each day.
Where: Loon Mountain Resort, 60 Loon Mountain Road, Lincoln
Cost: $65 for a weekend pass, $20 for Friday pass, $35 for Saturday pass, $25 for Sunday pass. Admission for children under 14 is free if accompanied by a paying adult. 

Passport to Scotland
Heavyweight competitions, Scottish food and more at NH Highland Games & Festival

By Ethan Hogan

 Sixty-five Scottish clans meet at Loon Mountain each year for the NH Highland Games & Festival, gathering on the grassy mountainside to compete in traditional Scottish heavyweight games alongside dancing and musical competitions.

This year’s event is happening Friday, Sept. 15, through Sunday, Sept.17.
“Our mission is to preserve and promote Scottish traditions for future generations,” said Terri Wiltse, the executive director of NHScot, which hosts the games.
Wiltse said the tradition started as a clan meeting between members of the Murray clan and included a performance by a pipe band. The meeting gained momentum through the years as more clans joined and grew the spectacle to 30,000 Scots and non-Scots from around the world. The festival’s foundation is built on the traditional Scottish physical and musical competitions. 
The opening ceremony on Friday, Sept. 15, at 8 a.m will feature a parade with all 65 clans, athletes, musicians and dancers.
For the physical competitions, a group of pre-selected athletes will compete in heavyweight events like caber throwing, hammer throwing, stone carries and weight over bar. Wiltse said the Scottish people of the Highland region have competed at these events for hundreds of years.  
“We have some of the best Highland heavy athletes in the world,” Wiltse said.
Returning this year to defend his stone carry record is Hafþór Júlíus “Thor” Björnsson, also known as The Mountain from the HBO series Game of Thrones. Björnsson is Europe’s Strongest Man and this year placed second in the World’s Strongest Man Competition.
The stone carry on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. is a distance event where competitors lift large stones and carry them as far as they can. Competitors carry the Loon stones, weighing 234 and 274 pounds, respectively, across an open field. Björnsson’s record is 140 feet and 10 inches. He will also be doing a car lift on Saturday at 2:15 p.m. at the athletic field, according to Wiltse.
The Loon stones carried during the competition represent a tradition in Scottish culture where villages would use the large rocks as a rite of passage for young men. The stones were named after the villages and young men would lift them to solidify their manhood.
“When they lifted the stone of their village, they became a man,” said Wiltse.
The musical competitions held throughout the weekend also celebrate Scottish traditions with categories for Scottish harp and fiddle, solo piping and drumming, and several Highland dancing subcategories. 
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Pipe Band and Dancers will perform at the parade square on Friday at 11 a.m.
Throughout the weekend, free classes and seminars teaching guests about Scottish traditions will be held at the mountain’s lodges and tents. Wiltse said the classes are part of NHScot’s mission to keep Scottish traditions alive. Classes in athletic activities and traditional Scottish musical instruments give spectators an opportunity to try the traditions they see during the weekend.
“You can come and take a 45-minute class about playing the bagpipes or stone lifting,” said Wiltse.
Other classes and demos will include fly fishing, dancing and cooking.
The vendor village will host traditional Scottish products like bagpipes, kilts and thistles as well as food that celebrates the Scot’s Celtic roots, including Eccles cakes, which are round puff confections with caramelized honey and burnt sugar crusts. 
Craft beer and whiskey tasting will also be featured at festival. Laphroaig will serve its whiskey, which Wiltse said comes in a variety of styles.
“They draw the whiskey through peat and use different barrels to age it like oak and cherry,” said Wiltse.
New this year is the NH Highland Brews & Bites: A Beer Pairing Dinner. It will be held at the Mountain Club on Loon Saturday at 5:30 p.m. and includes Innis and Gunn beers (both aged in oak) from three local breweries: Moat Mountain Brewing Co. (North Conway), Great North Aleworks (Manchester) and Smuttynose Brewing Co. (Hampton). This event is a separate ticketed event and is not included in festival general admission.
Wiltse said the extensive list of festival events and activities span the length of Loon mountain’s summit center.
“We pretty much take over every square foot of the place,” said Wiltse. 

®2020 Hippo Press. site by wedu